Exhilarating. Truly exhilarating. That’s the only way to accurately describe today’s experience. Trail running in the snow? Seriously. What kind of warriors really do this stuff? Not me. I hate exercise. I like being fit but I dislike getting and staying fit. Yet I am not kidding when I say my outdoor exercise experience today was actually fun – more than fun. It was exhilarating!
Almost two weeks ago we returned from our first cruise. A vacation at sea was never on my bucket list but my husband and kids really wanted to go and with Carpe Diem as one of my life mottos I could only stall for so long. Winter cabin fever had already set in so I caved pretty easily. The Caribbean was fabulous – Grand Cayman, Haiti, and Jamaica (my personal favorite). But the gluttony was endless. So much food and alcohol! By day three I understood why so many people get fat; it’s fun! Holy sheep caca the eating and drinking and drinking and eating! Unbelievable. I’m positive “Wall-E” was conceived on a cruise ship. From what I understand, I experienced the cruise ship standard: a weight gain of almost a pound a day. No kidding. They have stats on this stuff. Five pounds in six days. And that on top of an extra ten pounds already from a long winter of laziness. Lord only knows what’s happened with my exponentially increasing body fat. So, yeah, I’m trying to get back in shape. But a trail run in the snow is something for die hard fitness enthusiasts – not this chick.
Here’s the thing. I love all things outdoors, prefer to exercise outside, am self employed with a flexible schedule, own an 80 acre nature reserve with miles of running and hiking trails, and I live in NE Kansas. Our weather here is mild and Midwesterners know not to worry about bad weather because it never lasts long. So I have no excuse for letting myself get out of shape. But, as with most parts of the country, this particular winter has been a little rougher than most. We returned from the cruise on Sunday and I hit the trails on Monday, but, Tuesday brought yet another cold front, Wednesday brought eight inches of snow, and the average temperature has been zero ever since. Until today.
This morning the sun came out and by 2pm we were up to 40 degrees so I cleared my schedule, pulled on my smart wool socks, my best snow boots, squeezed into my ski pants and out I went, excited about the fresh air and sunshine on my face during a walk in the snow. I basically loathe running in general because I am a sprinter by nature. I get a thrill from the short burst of an uphill race on a deer trail in the woods. Obstacle course? I’m there. But the idea of a steady 10k on pavement makes me want to puke. Actually, I’m sure I would puke. Long distances not only bore me, I just can’t do them. My cardio will fail me long before I even feel a burn.
But trail running? That’s different. The soft, ever changing earth beneath my feet, the scenery, the tranquility – I actually like trail running. I’ve run in the mud, through creeks, over rocks, tall weeds, short grass, sticker bushes, and even on light, shallow snow before, enjoying the crisp air and the crunch. Today, however, was my first venture into deep snow. I’m only accustomed to maneuvering through deep snow on skis, not on foot. The trails were hidden three to ten inches deep surrounded by so much snow I sometimes veered off the paths without noticing. Running, by definition, was not possible today. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t exercise – quite the opposite.
I was prepared for a brisk walk while enjoying the scenery. Normally I walk with increasing speed to warm up then I stretch before taking off. Today I don’t know what came over me. I wasn’t ten steps in when I found myself grinning from ear to ear, high stepping through the twinkling snow, overwhelmed with the urge to run and play. Vast, white, fluffy glitter surrounded me, untouched by humans, and in moments I reverted to my five year old self, completely thrilled to romp in the snow, smitten with the scene of sparkling snowflakes. It was like that moment when you realize you’re the first kid outside on a snow day and your entire yard has yet to be touched. At one point I wiped out and laughed myself silly making a snow angel. Even in perfect weather, never before have I maneuvered two miles of trails with a smile that never left my face.
With every step each foot disappeared. Lifting my feet back up through ankle deep snow taxed my muscles like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Although I tried, sprinting up my favorite hill was impossible but even the slow climb blew out my calves and quads. My heart rate shot up and my legs were on fire. Labored steps that should have frustrated me encouraged me instead. The exercise was intense yet delightful. Compared to normal, I covered half as much ground but had twice the workout! My favorite part was considering how silly I would have looked simultaneously giggling and grunting had anyone else seen me but not a soul was in sight. The only human footprints I encountered today were mine. I was alone – just me, my Creator, and His creation – yet instead of isolation I felt completely connected to the entire world. I let myself fully absorb the experience, taking it all in, marveling at my mere existence in such a mystical, wonderful place, grateful for the wisdom that guided all the choices which led to that moment. Immersed in the scene I searched for adequate words to describe what I felt.
Exhilaration. That’s it. Nothing else captures it.
So here I sit, exhausted, aching muscles from my unconventional workout, and yet all I can think about is doing this all over again tomorrow. Not because I need to shed these holiday pounds – true as that may be – but because the experience itself was so incredible. I’m pushing fifty yet today I was five again. The sun, the sparkling snow, the sights and sounds, the silliness of it all, left me humbled and inspired. Left me…exhilarated. And come on now. Seriously. How often can a person use that word and really mean it?